Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to be more financially savvy. Actually, I went on a year-long quest to lean into things I tend to avoid. Hard, intimidating things like money, conflict, cooking in the kitchen. You know—adulting.
As my marketing business was starting to grow, I knew I needed to understand how to track and grow my revenue, how to navigate through a P&L spreadsheet, and how to better track my expenses throughout the month.
But ever since I was young, money felt like a scary thing. Crossing my fingers and hoping I had enough was my preferred way to handle things.
“I just don’t like thinking about money.”
“I’m not a finances kind-of person.”
“I’m no good at that stuff.”
That’s what I told myself and others. If I’m being totally honest—my plan back around 2010 was to find and marry a man like my dad so he could handle finances and I could keep not thinking about it.
But the 2010's came and went. I quit my job as a teacher and started my own business. And I still wasn’t married to a “finance guy.” So the cross-my-fingers-and-close-my-eyes strategy wasn’t really effective anymore.
So I decided 2019 was going to be my year. I was going to lean into that intimidation and become more financially savvy. I was going to get a business advisor and do everything they said. I'd figure out all the shortcuts on Excel. I'd listen to financial podcasts. I'd start using all of the financial tracking apps I'd downloaded.
That shiny new year motivation carried through to February. But March got really busy. I let the tracking start to pile up. I caught back up in mid-April, but I felt overwhelmed with the nuances of categorizing and tracking. And then it was the summer and I didn’t really want to be staring at spreadsheets. I just don’t like thinking about money. I’m not a finances kind of person. I’m no good at this….
You can see where this is going.
Too often, our ambitions for self-improvement fail—not for lack of motivation, or even specificity and planning.
They fail because there’s something bigger going on under the surface. Beneath our actions and plans, there’s a current of emotions invisibly driving the action. And the catalyst for our emotions are the stories we tell ourselves.
Action: Procrastinating on tracking my finances.
Emotion: Overwhelm and insecurity.
Story: I’m no good at this.
When I followed my pattern of behavior all the way down to its roots, I found a narrative. A belief about myself or “the way things are.” That story was triggering my emotions which, in turn, derailed my plan for action.
Throughout the second half of 2019, I continued trying to track my expenses—intermittently. I kept meeting with other business advisors—some who were helpful, and others who just added to the overwhelm. I didn’t do it perfectly, but throughout the course of the year, I kept trying to lean into the habits that intimidated me.
A few weeks ago, I spent an afternoon reconciling my books from 2019. It still wasn’t my idea of fun, but it felt more like a challenging puzzle than an impossible math problem. I told a friend about my accomplishment and they were impressed. I responded that as a business owner, it’s important to me to understand how my finances work. “Even if I end up delegating that to someone else down the road, now I’m empowered to do it myself.”
Did you catch what happened there? Without me knowing, my ongoing and imperfect attempts to lean in had an effect. I’ve been shifting away from the narrative of being bad at finances to being a business owner who does the work to empower herself.
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits
As you consider your goals and vision for 2020, I encourage you to be intentional about the stories you’re telling yourself. Put up red flags around the negative narratives so when you hear them coming, you can calmly exchange them with a new story.
And as the James Clear quote points out, it’s essential to start with small, tangible, and repeatable habits to help you find evidence for your new identity. Perfection isn’t necessary, but persistence is.
Create your vision for 2020. If you haven’t already, download my free guide, Reflect & Envision. This 12-page resource will help you reflect on 2019 and help you intentionally envision what 2020 could look like.
Try SNAP throughout the day. I recently came across this super helpful acronym of SNAP to help me stop my emotions from running the show. When I’m starting to feel overwhelmed, anxious, resentful, or any triggering emotion, I take two minutes to go through these steps to hit the “reset button.”
Stop: Pause and take three deep breaths.
Notice: What am I feeling?
Ask: What story am I believing right now? Is it true?
Pivot: State a new intention and head in that direction.
Read or listen to Atomic Habits by James Clear. If you’re looking for a book to start your year off right, I highly recommend this one! James has tons of practical advice and tangible ways to start implementing (and sticking with) those new goals. Remember, “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”
2020 is going to be your year. You've got this!